Debenhams secures £200m lifeline with lenders

Struggling department store chain Debenhams has agreed a £200m refinancing lifeline with lenders.

The deal offered “reassurance” for employees, pension holders, suppliers and lenders, it said.

The retailer said it would continue with plans to cut the number of its stores and negotiate rent reductions.

The financial deal leaves the door open for Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct, which has been has been vying to seize control of Debenhams, to make a bid.

“We are pleased to have agreed this comprehensive funding package which secures the future of the Debenhams business,” said Debenhams chairman Terry Duddy.

“We have also preserved a route for our shareholders to participate in the future of the business, but this requires the support of our major shareholder.”

Sports Direct is the biggest Debenhams shareholder, with a 29.7% stake. Brandes Investment Partners, Odey Asset Management and retail conglomerate Landmark Group are also significant shareholders.

But whether Debenhams can get hold of the remaining £99m depends on one of the following options taking place by 8 April.

One is that Sports Direct, or another major shareholder with more than a quarter of the company’s shares, makes a firm offer for the retailer, including refinancing Debenhams debt, the department store said.

Alternatively, Sports Direct could drop its attempt to oust all but one of the Debenhams board, and either agree to underwrite a rights issue or provide funding on terms agreed by Debenhams’ lenders.

If neither of these happen, Debenhams said the remaining funds would be made available only when the company’s lenders take over the business, but added this “would very likely result in no equity value for the company’s current shareholders”.